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Toy Company Wants To Ban Gay And Lesbian Sites

by Todd Richmond,
Staff Writer,

A battle in a Boston courtroom has determined what you will read or not read on the net.

It involves Cyber Patrol, a company owned by toy giant Mattel, and hackers who have created a program to bypass CP.

For those who haven't heard of it, Cyber Patrol, like Net Nanny and a number of other programs, allows people to block out sites that may be considered offensive.  CP has scanned the net for key words and created a list of sites which it bans once you have installed their program.  It can be used by parents to prevent children from going to "adult" sites, but is also used by many libraries and companies.

Just about anything that involves the words 'gay' or 'lesbian' is blocked, including most LG information sites
The problem is, Cyber Patrol doesn't always get it right.  For months a whole community in GeoCities was blocked.  Student group sites at Carnegie Mellon University, journalism-related Usenet newsgroups, and just about anything that involves the words "gay" or "lesbian" [are blocked as well], including most LG information sites. is banned by Cyber Patrol.  Other LG sites blocked include Girlfriends Magazine, a news mag for lesbians; Gay Scribe, a collection of online gay and lesbian news articles; BLK, an online magazine and community forum for African Americans; and a long list of others.  And, it blocks newsgroups offering information and support about AIDS.

While the hackers today settled with Mattel, dozens of sites have not.

In an opinion issued late today, Judge Edward F. Harrington refused to say whether U.S. website operators who posted copies of the program are subject to the settlement terms.  He also appeared to suggest that mirror sites could test that question only by risking a contempt charge that could lead to fines and jail.

"We respectfully disagree with the court's opinion and we are weighing our legal options," said Chris Hansen, an [American Civil Liberties Union] senior staff attorney and lead counsel in the case.

Although the right of parents to use the software was never at issue, Judge Harrington said the case "raises a profound societal issue, namely, who is to control the educational and intellectual nourishment of young children - the parents or the purveyors of pornography and the merchants of death and violence."

But by allowing Mattel Inc., the owners of Cyber Patrol, to control the dissemination of the decoding program, the judge's ruling leaves parents in the dark about the products they are buying to protect their children, Hansen said.

"Today's development only reinforces our view that the less parents know about what Cyber Patrol blocks, the more they are being led astray by Mattel and the other manufacturers who consider their 'list of ingredients' top secret," he added.

Attempts by president Rob Sands to get an explanation why this LG online news publication is banned by Cyber Patrol have gone unanswered.  Sands says "our legal department is now working on it, and we may be forced to sue Cyber Patrol and Mattel in the U.S. over First Amendment violations."